Clayton’s baseball team picked right where it left off before Spring break Tuesday night, downing rival West Johnston 5-3 for its fifth straight Greater Neuse River 4A win and its eighth win in its last nine contests.
The Comets remained in second place, just one game behind league leading Garner, which is unbeaten in the GNRC, with a 5-3 win over rival West Johnston Tuesday night.
Clayton (9-6, 5-1) belted out 13 hits with none being bigger or more timely than Hunter Poole’s two-run single in the top of the seventh inning that scored Brett Clark and Cole Hinnant, giving the visitors the 5-3 lead.
Junior Brandon Boykin earned the win in relief when he got the Wildcats’ Sterling Atkinson to pop out to second base with a runner on base.
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“That win keeps us one game behind Garner and keeps us in the hunt,” Clayton coach Stacey Houser said. “We lost a tough game against Garner but we can compete with anybody.
“I think our kids are starting to feel good with their play.”
Poole ended the night 3-4 with three RBIs, including an RBI single in the third when the Comets scored two runs with five consecutive singles after the first two batters of the inning were retired.
While the Comets came through with just enough situational hitting to win, the Wildcats stranded 10 runners on the night despite getting seven base hits from seven different players.
“If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities when you get those chances, you are going to lose,” West Johnston coach Mike Jacobs said. “Clayton took advantage of their chances; we did not.”
West Johnston (6-6, 3-3) scored all three of its runs in the third as a pair of Clayton errors preceded back-to-back RBI singles from Atkinson and Jayce Stephenson to help the Wildcats tie the game at 3-all.
Clayton starting pitcher Sam May bounced back from the rocky third inning and retired seven of the next eight batters he faced before giving way to Boykin.
The Wildcats’ Justin Carroll similarly got tougher as the game wore on to keep his team in the game and went the distance in a losing effort.
“He always gets stronger,” Jacobs said of his starting pitcher. “That’s just him; he’s a strong kid. He’s built like a stallion to go do that and he has his best stuff at the end.”
In addition to Poole’s big night, Brett Bailey and Brett Clark both singled twice for the Comets.
“We hit the ball well tonight even though don’t have the runs to support it,” Houser said. “We could have used a few more key hits but we had just enough to win.”